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10 October 2018, 03:28 | Edward Lowe
ADRIAN DENNIS AFP
Virgin Galactic's disaster-struck space tourism programme is apparently nearing final launch readiness, with Branson telling United States news site CNBC that: "We should be in space within weeks, not months". "Then we will be in space with myself in months and not years".
Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, originally promised suborbital flights - those that reach space without orbiting the planet - by 2009. And that'll be a legitimate offsettable business expense for professional Instagrammers, so there ought to be loads of them up flying about up there, pouting in front of small, black windows.
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo on its first test flight in October 2010 to prove the glide-and-land design.
While Sir Richard says that he will have humans in space next year, Mr Musk has set a target of 2030 to get people to Mars, with the first people there being tasked with beginning to build a new civilisation. In the most recent test in July, the space plane was released from its jet-powered carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, at 46,500 feet before the Unity's pilots lit its rocket.
The Virgin founder revealed this week that his company is just weeks away from its first test flight beyond orbit, with manned missions planned "not too long after".
Branson has previously said he thinks Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin would both "have a person in space roundabout the same time".
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Virgin Galactic aims to launch the first commercial passenger flight into space, and is in tough competition with US space company Blue Origin.
Blue Origin flew its New Shepherd spacepod, which launches aboard a traditional rocket capsule, to an altitude of 351,000 feet (107,000 metres) during a test flight near Van Horn, Texas, on April 29. He told CNBC that the company will be flying in space "within weeks". Right now the price of a Virgin Galactic ticket is nearly $250,000-and it won't be dropping anytime soon.
Sir Richard conceded earlier this year that the number of spurious claims he has made about Virgin Galactic flight dates was "embarrassing".
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